Imitation, Flattery and Packaging Design

I had this happen before, but admittedly, it has been a while. A friend had turned me onto a deal on a chainsaw at a store that shall go nameless. It was electric and since I wasn’t going to use it start a lumberjacking side job, that was cool. I drove around with it in my back seat for a week making sure I remembered to deliver it to my parents. When the day came, I pulled it out and finally had a look at the packaging. It was then that I realized that whomever made this box used a lot of my perspiration as their inspiration.

What am I talking about? Well a few years ago I got to redesign the packaging for ECHO outdoor power tools. We did some really killer work on it – for tool packaging which you’d really think would be pretty killer in general but not so much. Anyways, the trade dress actually won an award.

The cool stuff about it was that due to the weight and size of the sorts of tools in the box, you couldn’t really create solid enough structure to hold them and have a window. We decided to show elevations of the tools at full size on every panel so that when a customer looks at the box they get a feel for how big the product is.

Another thing we did was to have the backgrounds on which the tool elevations sit change with the tool category. Hence, leaf blowers would have a leaves behind them. Grass Trimmers had lawns and chainsaws had logs.

The top panel contained the product feature walk-arounds. The features were aligned to one white line that went the length of the box and on the other side of the features arrow lines extended at angles to the feature in question. The reason for the walk-around on the top was due to the manner in which these products were faced and stored on the shelves, you couldn’t guarantee which side faced out but could guarantee that it wouldn’t be the top. This makes more sense when you get into the larger and more awkward sizes.

Bringing this back to the new chainsaw, what did I see? Well for starters, it has a similar die line shape as the ones we did for ECHO. admittedly, we didn’t do the die work on this one, I believe International Paper did, but the configuration is darn close, except made out of corrugate. The reasons for this is that it allowed for far more fully-assembled chainsaws per area, because you could nest them, rather than having lots of boxes with empty space. The corrugate still reaps these rewards, although not to the degree the ECHO ones do.

That lead me to the next bit… there are product elevation images on every size and full size. I will point out that there are zero other power tool manufacturers who do this but ECHO. There is even a product feature walk-around (granted, on the side panel) laid out nearly identical to ours, including the alignment line and the angled arrow lines! There are even pictures of logs that look curiously similar to our logs (Perhaps that’s what you get when you use stock art)!

Obviously, there are a lot of dissimilarities as well, like the color and the remainder of the layouts…

Now, I don’t think that ECHO has anything to fear, in terms of market share but it is interesting, perhaps even fun to see someone else reiterate your thoughts so closely!


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